Cherry pink, navy, fiery red and many other vivid hues of colour are spray-painted in swathes, circles and swirls up the walls, into the corners, along the boards and all over the entrances of the South London Gallery. There is a lot of rich and expressive colour in Katharina Grosse’s ‘This Drove my Mother up the Wall’, the latest installation by the German artist, created specifically for the central space of the Victorian gallery. The environment has completely surrendered to the brilliant colour of Grosse’s spray-paint gun, becoming the base for her psychedelic abstraction.
Colour is an alive and active presence: it originates in the corners of the room, dissolving the boundaries between the walls and the floor, and rises upwards like a burning flame. Grosse has painted all over the space, by covering the floor with a large foam stencil. On this wall, you can see a red spiral coming out of a corner, just like lava out of an erupting volcano. On that wall, a soothing lavender shade rises towards the white ceiling. The spray paint creates different scenarios and moods. It can be thick and concealing, or airy and delicate. Paint is the only element that inhabits the installation, transforming the architecture into something that relies on the medium itself and could not exist without. The absence of sculptural objects in the space causes a kind of void, an untouched surface around which everything else rotates. The encounter between the void and the painted surface creates borders, which constantly shift and are often annulled. There are several kinds of borders within the work: some are crisp, some softer, others untouched by the spray gun. This tool not only magnifies the artist’s reach but it also accelerates her velocity in covering larger areas. It allows Grosse to reinforce the idea of aggression that runs throughout her practice, equating her to American and German Abstract Expressionists.
‘This Drove My Mother up the Wall’ is not only an effective takeover of the environment, but it also represents a challenge to the limits of painting. The picture frame ceases to exist: painting once used to portray the world, now it is applied directly to the world itself. One can either focus on the clots of paint along the walls and be mesmerised by them or stand within the gallery and become an integral element of Grosse’s installation. The vivid paints an energy that takes the viewer on an enchanting and captivating journey that is impossible to escape.